When my brother was planning his wedding he wanted our father to officiate. Dad was not a minister or a priest, far from it, but he did own a 40 foot sailboat. Maybe, as de facto captain of a marine vessel, he could legally marry people when he was at sea.
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We did a little research and discovered two things. First of all the owner of a boat doesn’t have the same matrimonial powers as the captain of a ship so that idea was a non-starter. Secondly we found out that if both the bride and groom BELIEVED that the officiant was empowered to marry them, the wedding was legal (at least that was the case in New Hampshire 30 years ago).
Of course, when you get down to the nitty-gritty, this is true of almost everything. We humans make stuff up and then believe it and then act like it’s real. In the United States we all agree that time jumps ahead an hour once a year and jumps back an hour about 6 months later. We all agree that cars will drive on the right side of roads rather than the left side of lawns. In fact 95% of what we deal with most of the time is completely invented. Money, language, time, clothing, politics, nations, laws, rules, contracts and relationships are all based on nothing but shared beliefs. I call these things “culturally real.”
There are many things that have a reality outside of culture, of course. Things like gravity and water and air. I call these things “dog real” because my dogs and I agree on their reality. They don’t understand or care who’s in the White House or what’s happening on Wall Street but they do know that water is wet.
It’s very powerful to notice that your relationship to culturally reality can be profoundly changed by changing your beliefs. People have completely altered their lives by changing their beliefs about what is possible. If my brother and his fiancé (now wife) had been able to convince themselves that my father could marry them, they could have been married by him. If you believe that it’s evil to have lots of money you will probably not have lots of money.
Belief is so powerful it can have an impact on dog reality as well. For centuries, doctors have been aware of placebo effect. If someone takes a sugar pill that they believe is medicine, that pretend pill can have a real physiological effect.
Please note that it’s not “just” psychological. It’s not just that the patient expected to feel better so they convinced themselves that they felt better. Their body chemistry changes. In one remarkable study, a group of patients with osteoarthritis in their knee were operated on and given arthroscopic debridement. Another group was put under and their knees were opened up and then sewn shut. Nothing was done to their joints. The folks who received no treatment had EXACTLY THE SAME results and those who had their knees scoped. The fake operation had relieved their pain and given them back as much range of motion as the real operation had. People who take fake asthma medicine have measurably better lung capacity.
You can take the placebo effect out of medicine. Blessings and curses can heal and harm if the recipients believe in their power. Lucky charms and rituals are huge in sports. Micheal Jordan always wore his University of North Carolina shorts under his Bulls uniform and Bill Russell reportedly threw up before each game. Jordan has 6 NBA championship rings and Russell has 11.
So try it out. Endow an object or ritual with power. I am declaring that my father’s high school class ring, which magically appeared in my possession after he passed away, has supernatural powers. It makes me extra-confident and brings me extra luck and, if the Earth is invaded by evil aliens, will give me the power to fly and shoot energy beams out of my eyes.
Sounds crazy but, if I believe it hard enough…
(Or course we’ll have to wait for an alien invasion to test the ring’s power.)